Unclaimed bodies at the Bibb Co. coroner's office are costing taxpayers
MACON, Ga. -- Every year Bibb County's chief coroner has bodies that go unclaimed, and those storage costs add up for taxpayers before they're cremated.
Coroner Leon Jones said 2018 has been an above average year for people that have been unclaimed.
"We never destroy them, and we don't bury them. We keep them right here and they're inventoried," said Jones.
The ashes of 172 people including babies are kept in the basement, like Annie Tolbert, who's been there since 1985.
"Until we exhaust all our means to get a hold of the next of kin, sometimes its seven to 10 days. Now every once in awhile it can go more than 10 days, sometimes it goes two weeks," Jones said.
Then Jones gets a court order to cremate -- in 2018 he's had to do that 38 times.
Before that court order comes though, each day adds up on top of a $200 fee every time a body is transported.
"That's $100 of tax, that's $100 a day of taxpayers' money," Jones said.
For fiscal year 2018 -- that's July 2017 to June 2018 -- the coroner's office spent $344,000 on storage and transport. That cost is up from $136,000 for the fiscal year just before that.
Once Jones gets that court order $700, comes from Child and Family Services to cremate the bodies.
"Bury the hatchet, they're disconnected and they don't want to claim the bodies," he said.
There are people who simply can't afford it, but it doesn't make it any easier.
"The saddest part is they have a loved one somewhere," Jones said.
These costs are for fiscal years going back to 2014 -- that year shows the costs only for January 1 - June 30 because the city of Macon consolidated with Bibb County that year:
- 2014 (six months) -- $24,100
- 2015 -- $56,857
- 2016 -- $88,802
- 2017 -- $136,271
- 2018 -- $344,050
According to Chris Floore with Macon-Bibb County, the increase has to do with the courts and how long the bodies needed to be stored for notification.
Jones said these aren't all bodies that have gone unclaimed -- some are kept while they're waiting to get an autopsy performed, which can take several days or more.